June 14: FanRag’s Jon Heyman reports that the Grade 2 strain in Ohtani’s UCL is new and is not related to the previous Grade 1 strain that he was reported to have shortly after signing. There’s been no update from the medical experts who’ve evaluated Ohtani, as doctors are waiting to see how his UCL responds to the injections he’s already received. As per the timeline originally put forth by the Angels at the time his injury was announced, that reevaluation is set to come at the end of this month (June 29).
June 11: Following an on-air report from ESPN’s Pedro Gomez in which Gomez suggested that Angels ace Shohei Ohtani “probably will need Tommy John surgery,” Halos GM Billy Eppler opposed the notion in a statement to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links).
“There have been no changes in Ohtani’s diagnosis and neither our physicians nor medical staff have recommended (Tommy John surgery) or said it’s likely,” said Eppler on Monday.
As with any UCL injury, of course, the possibility remains that surgical repair will ultimately be proven necessary. Notably, Eppler doesn’t definitively state that Ohtani will not require Tommy John surgery, likely because he and the team’s medical staff genuinely do not know whether Ohtani will avoid surgery at this point. When the Angels made the announcement that Ohtani was DL-bound, the team said that he had already received platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections and would be re-evaluated in three weeks.
Eppler, then, simply seems to have been motivated to speak out against a report that was based on something other than conclusive medical evaluations. While some with the club are likely bracing for the worst and may even pessimistically be considering it the likeliest outcome, there’s no clear way to know exactly what treatment is in store for Ohtani until later this month when doctors make their recommendations following the initial wave of treatment. To that end, it’s worth noting that two of Ohtani’s current teammates, Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, attempted similar treatment methods in order to avoid Tommy John surgery themselves. Heaney ultimately required the surgery anyway, but Richards did indeed manage to avoid the operation.
For the Angels, there’s little downside in attempting PRP and stem cell injections in addition to rest and rehab. As a theoretical example, even if Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery tomorrow, he would still be likely to miss the majority of the 2019 season anyhow. While some pitchers have returned from Tommy John in 11 to 12 months in the past, the Halos would certainly err on the side of caution in Ohtani’s rehabilitation process. A best-case scenario might see him sidelined into next August, so the harm in trying to avoid the procedure entirely is somewhat minimized when viewed through that lens.